March 23, 2018 / 1:13 PM / 9 months ago

US STOCKS-Wall St set to open flat amid trade war fears

* Futures: Dow down 18 pts, S&P up 1.25 pts, Nasdaq off 11 pts (Adds comments, details, updates prices)

By Sruthi Shankar

March 23 (Reuters) - U.S. stock futures pared losses and were flat half-an-hour ahead of the opening bell on Friday as investors assessed the global implications of a potential trade war between the United States and China.

President Donald Trump on Thursday moved to impose tariffs on up to $60 billion of Chinese goods, deepening fears that the world's two largest economies are heading into a trade war.

China disclosed its own plans Friday to slap tariffs on up to $3 billion of U.S. imports, but also urged the United States to "pull back from the brink.

"China came back with proposed tariffs, but it was not nearly as large as United States, and that's given people a little bit of semblance of hope that maybe this is not going to turn into a full-fledged trade war and maybe that there's room for negotiation," said Robert Pavlik, chief investment strategist at SlateStone Wealth in New York.

"The focus is going to be back on what's actually working, and economies around the world are still improving."

Also helping sentiment was a strong-than-expected reading on U.S. capital goods data for February.

Orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, jumped 1.8 percent last month in its biggest gain in five months. Economists had forecast a gain of only 0.8 percent.

In another White House shake up, Trump on Thursday replaced H.R. McMaster as national security adviser with John Bolton, a hawk who has advocated using military force against North Korea and Iran. Futures dipped on the news last Thursday.

At 9:05 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 18 points, S&P 500 e-minis gained 1.25 points and Nasdaq 100 e-minis dropped 11 points.

Shares of Micron fell 2.3 percent premarket after the chiomaker posted better-than-expected quarterly results, but Citigroup noted a deterioration in NAND prices that it said would weigh on results.

Those comments could spell trouble for other chipmakers and add to the pressure on the technology sector, which is already on track for its biggest weekly loss since February 2016.

The sector is down 5.3 percent in the past four day, led by a drop in big tech names in the aftermath of Facebook's data privacy issues.

Among the bright spots, Nike rose nearly 5 percent after saying it expected its North America business to return to growth in the latter half of this year.

Target was up 2.3 percent and Kroger was up 4.1 percent, but off higher gains, after a Reuters source said there was no truth to a tech magazine report that the two retailers were in talks about a possible merger.

Dropbox Inc is also set to make its long-awaited trading debut on the Nasdaq after the cloud storage company topped expectations with the upsized price of its initial public offering. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza)

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